Process 033 ☼ Processing Life's Challenges Through Photography

Giveaway: Retro Camera analog film pack

Dear friends,

Today’s letter is a little heavier in tone than usual. It’s about processing a challenging moment through photography. For balance we have the happiest NOTICE update yet!

For this week’s giveaway we have an analog film pack courtesy of the good folks at Retro Camera.


Processing Through Photography

A few days ago something terrible happened in Amsterdam. One of the most well-known crime journalists in the country was shot down in clear daylight on a street less than a mile from where I live. His name is Peter R. De Vries.

This is someone I grew up watching on TV and reading about in the newspaper. He has been a fixture in the news for the past 25 years, uncovering crimes and advocating for victims. He is currently in the hospital fighting for his life.

The shooting was a major shock to the system in a country like the Netherlands where the crime and murder rate is very low. Even though I only followed his career from afar and never met him in person I was in disturbed like everyone else.

How could this happen in such a safe city to a prominent journalist? What does this mean about crime and violence in Amsterdam? What if I or someone I love would have been there at the wrong time, so close to my apartment?

The night it happened I couldn’t stop checking the news for updates. I stayed up way too late reading everything I could about the case. I didn’t sleep well and the next morning I immediately started checking the news again. I had to break out of this pattern and go outside to be in the world. I grabbed my camera bag so I could process this strange moment through the lens instead.

I brough my father’s Hasselblad. It felt like the right camera for a solemn occassion. It’s slow, doesn’t have a lightmeter, and shoots in a formal 6x6 square format. I heard people were placing flowers where it happened and over there on my bicycle thinking I might be able to make a few still life images of the scene.

There weren’t that many flowers yet when I arrived, but there was a steady pace of people walking by to pay their respects. Most would only stop for a moment, lay down flowers, take a picture, and be on their way.

A fair number of journalists were also there. TV crews, writers, and photographers all there to document how the people of Amsterdam felt about what happened.

They interviewed people who lived across the street of where it happened, spoke to passers-by, and filmed their reports for television talking to anchors in their studios via satelite link.

While adults were interviewed for the adult news, kids gave their perspective for the dedicated news program for children.

While the media documented the news I felt drawn to document the process of gathering the news. I watched videographers and photographers jockey for the best position to capture someone placing flowers or a soccer jersey on the ground.

The visual language of mainstream news photography seems to rely on a modest number of possible angles and hooks to tell a story in a way that a large audience is used to consuming it. This means that news photographers often automatically float to just about the exact same spot to get the definitive photograph of the moment.

It was interesting to notice the dynamics between the journalists and their courtesy for each other. Everyone trying to do their job the best they could while also being somewhat beholden to the familiar narratives of what mourning looks like when presented in the short form video and photography format. There is a certain shot that says: something awful happened and this person is here to mourn and support.

By turning my photography brain on I was able to push into the background the part of my brain that was hamsterwheeling about what happened in this exact spot not even 12 hours earlier. By being active in my body and engaged in my craft I was able to temporarily detach myself from the news, lean into my curiosity, and process feelings.

Instead of focusing on getting the classic “news” shot, I gave myself the assignment to photograph the story of how the news was being gathered. This gave me a sense of purpose, which in turn made me feel calmer.

When people speak about the power of photography they’re generally refering to the good photography can do in helping other people. But photography as a craft can also be a powerful tool to help the photographer. It’s our therapy, our meditation, our memory, and our excuse to stare try to make sense of it all. I’m so grateful for that.


Notice Book Update

Our best update yet: Last Monday NOTICE went to print! I traveled to Wilco Art Books to monitor the entire printing process alongside our producer Jos and lithographer Sebastiaan. We spent an hour or two making test prints, processing small changes, and tweaking details until it was perfect. Offset printing is such a fascinating process and it takes a lot of small steps to get it just right. Adding 5% more yellow to one sheet and 10% more contrast to another, comparing grain details, etc.

Fellow ACA member Luc Satter came along and documented the printing process on video. Here’s a few stills from the video, which is coming soon.

Next up: the binding of the book! NOTICE should be properly bound, signed, wrapped, and sent off to our fulfillment center by July 19th after which it can be shipped out to all of your wonderful Noticers in more than 50 countries around the world. We cannot wait for you to hold it in your hands.

Order NOTICE

If you haven’t had a chance yet to order your copy of NOTICE there is still time to get in on the first printing. Between your orders and shops ordering it looks like the first printing will be sold out, or close to it, by the time we ship so grab your copy now!


Alright that’s it for this week. Some more exciting news coming in the next issue.

Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others.

Wesley

The black and white rolls included in this newsletter were developed by Wim at Silverhands and scanned by Jorn C. Haverkort. The color rolls were developed and scanned at Foto Lab.


Process Giveaway!

For the past couple of months I have been a happy customer of Retro Camera, a Belgian family business that serves analog photographers of all experience levels. For this giveaway they have kindly made available a wonderful prize pack including a Japan Camera Hunter half case for 35mm, a Rollei Paul & Reinhold 640 2-pack of film, and one roll each of Silberra’s PAN 160, U200, and U400.

To enter email me at hello@wesley.co (please don’t reply to this note but send a separate email) before 11pm EST on July 14nd and answer the following question:

How has photography helped you process a personal matter? (You don’t have to share anything you’re not comfortable with or go into details about sensitive matters. It’s ok to only mention there was a difficult time and speak only to how photography helped in that time.)

One winner will be randomly drawn and notified. This giveaway is for Process subscribers only. Subscribe by clicking the button below:

Make sure to show Retro Camera some love on Instagram and check out their webshop for all your analog needs. They have a physical store in Ypres too.


Would you like to support Process? Great! Tell your friends about it. Just click below:

Share Process by Wesley Verhoeve

If you’re a new reader, browse the Process archives here.

Process is a weekly letter from Wesley Verhoeve.

Preorder my photo book “Notice” here.

Follow along at @wesley.